FAQs on workplace safety during Covid-19

Never has workplace hygiene been so vital to the safety of employees across the world. Crucial to limiting the spread of the COVID virus, taking additional protective measures in the workplace is currently both prudent and potentially lifesaving for employees unable to work from home. Thankfully, most organizations have never had to face these kinds of requirements before, but this means that identifying accurate sources of information and putting them into practice can lead to confusion. Here we summarize the steps to take in order to maintain the safety and wellbeing of your employees – your most valuable asset.

How do I properly clean and disinfect my workplace?

The CDC has published guidance on this topic. According to the CDC, it is important to both clean and disinfect frequently- touched objects and surfaces such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, doorknobs, faucets and sinks. Dirty surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water prior to disinfection. To disinfect, use products that meet criteria from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against COVID-19, and are appropriate for the surface. You can find detailed information on workplace disinfecting from the CDC here, and a link to the EPA-registered household disinfectant on the CDC website, here.

Per the CDC, you may also use household bleach solutions if it is appropriate for the surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application, ensuring a contact time of at least 1 minute, and allowing proper ventilation during and after application. Remember never to mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. According to the CDC, unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted. The CDC instructs that you can prepare a bleach solution by mixing:

a. 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or
b. 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

You could also use alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and ensure disposable gloves are worn to clean and disinfect.

At Pitney Bowes, many of our facilities remain open to help us provide business continuity to our customers. Within these facilities we have increased our cleaning frequency in all our common areas such as breakrooms, restrooms and time clocks. Additionally, we have provided cleaning solutions for our employees to use to disinfect their workstations at the start of and throughout the work shifts.

Do I need to train my employees for any of these new requirements?

Depending on your type of business, you may be required to train your staff on hazards and develop relevant communication: if working with new chemicals you must ensure you have Safety Data sheets and explain to your employees how to properly use the materials, as well as explaining what Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may be needed. Anyone that is tasked to clean and disinfectant should wear protective equipment such as gloves.

You may also need to train your employees on OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standard. This training is given to ensure that employees that are cleaning and disinfecting areas of your facility (where blood or other bodily fluids may be present) are aware of the hazards and how to protect themselves.

Another part of your training and awareness should include talking to your employees about how you are implementing social distancing within your operations.

How can I implement and enforce social distancing within my workplace?

Pay attention to areas where employees naturally congregate including lunchrooms, time clocks and other high traffic areas. Use visual indicators to mark six-foot distances. Utilize signage and remind employees on the importance of social distancing: fact sheets can be printed and displayed across your facilities. In some cases, you can engineer a solution: for example, buy 6ft long tables for your lunchrooms, and have a chair at either end to ensure the proper distancing. You can also mark the floors to indicate 6ft distances with tape or other indicators.

Think about how your workflow is designed. Can you create physical distancing between employees at workstations, or stagger shifts or break times? Consider having one-way entrances in and exits out of your building. You could also limit the number of people in your location.

Should I be wearing a face covering? And what do I need to do for my employees?

In light of new data about how COVID-19 spreads along with evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness in communities across the country, the CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in community settings and in some essential businesses. This is to protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms. In certain geographies executive orders have made face coverings mandatory.

You could purchase coverings for your employees, or they may feel more comfortable bringing their own coverings: at Pitney Bowes, we purchased a combination of reusable cloth masks and disposable face coverings for our sites. It’s important to remind employees how to wear them correctly and how to keep them clean, as well as the importance of continuing social distancing guidelines.

What else should I remember?

The situation is evolving at a rapid pace, so you may find it useful to sign up for emailed news updates from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health. Also, some states are requiring health screens and temperature checks for employees and possibly people entering premises. You should check with reopening orders for your location to verify all the unique requirements.

Allison Bresloff, Director, Global Environmental, Health & Safety, Pitney Bowes

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